Confidence is key: Freshman Jaelynn Chesson leads team in batting average

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Freshman Jaelynn Chesson poses inside Rauch Field House on Wednesday, March 6, 2019, on Goodman Campus. Chesson is leading the team in batting averages with a .520 average. (Meghan Nolte/B&W Staff)

When freshman Jaelynn Chesson was laying in a hospital bed a few months ago, slowly recovering from a ruptured appendix, she tried to imagine the upcoming season. She did not foresee herself having such an impact on the team as a freshman.

Today, seven games into her freshman softball season, Chesson is leading the team in batting average with a 5.20.

A native of Franklin, Tennessee, Chesson came to Lehigh with the expectation of performing at a high level. But no one, including herself, expected her to be this good, this soon.

Her offseason training was derailed a few months ago when she was hospitalized, sidelining her for two months.

Junior captain and infielder Mary-Hannah Smith said the incident was a scary situation.

“She was very sick,” Smith said. “Her doctor even said that she was ‘sick as hell.’ She was hours away from not being OK.”

While Chesson has had to ease back into pitching since the incident, she has had no problem swinging the bat thus far. Coach Fran Troyan said he is impressed with Chesson’s performance this season.

“She is somebody who is just a real natural hitter and she really doesn’t overthink things when she steps into the batter’s box,” Troyan said. “She allows her athletic ability and training just to kind of take over and it has allowed her so far to perform at a really high level.”

While it can often be difficult for freshmen to adjust to the college level, Troyan said the six athletes of the freshman class were accepted by the team right away and play very well.

“The neat thing about Chesson and Carley (Barjaktarovic) is that they’re such nice people,” Troyan said. “Their acceptance by the entire team was something that happened really fast.”

Troyan said they have done a great job for the team right out of the gate and he expects them to continue to showcase intensity.

For Chesson, Troyan made it clear that if she can stay out of her own head and focus on each at-bat at a time, she can sustain a high level of production.

Chesson echoed that mentality.

“I just want to work on staying confident throughout my season and know that everybody has their ups and downs,” Chesson said. “No matter what, it’s not going to change who you are personally. Just being able to go in knowing that anyone can overcome anything is important and is something that I have already gone through, since being sick for about two months.”

Chesson has no shortage of support from family, friends and coaches back home, and she said she has made sure not to forget about her softball roots.

“Back home, I have personal coaches that have cheered me up and one thing that they’ve always focused to me is just working on the mechanics in the offseason,” Chesson said. “Then when it comes to the actual season, I just have to focus on being loose and playing the game and just doing what I know how to do best.”

The 5-2 Mountain Hawks have performed well so far this season, and Chesson and the other freshmen have been a key part of their success, Troyan said.

Smith reverberated Troyan’s sense that this year’s newcomers have potential to be special.

“It’s really nice to have people that can hit,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter what grade they are in.”

The team will depart for Arizona this weekend to begin a tough spring break schedule of opponents including Michigan, Arizona State and Ohio State.

Chesson hopes to make her mark on this tournament as well.

“She’s outgoing, fun and jovial, and things don’t really seem to bother her too much,” Troyan said. “I feel like it’s going to be a real advantage to her as we go through the course of the season.”

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